Show Notes

Here you will find transcripts, notes, and links to sources or resources for each episode.  If you want to know before listening to the episode or reading the transcript whether a movie is poly or not (perhaps to avoid spoilers), look for the Poly-ish Movie Reviews logo next to the title of the movie on each Show Notes entry.  If the movie has some kind of poly content, you will see the logo.  If the movie is rejected for no poly-ish content, you will not see the logo.  Additionally, you can also visit the Poly-ish Movies tab to see the complete list of verified poly-ish movies, whether that movie has been reviewed or not.

Show Notes will be posted after the audio episode has been released on iTunes and Stitcher.  I will try to post the Show Notes on the same day, but occasionally the Notes may be posted some time later.

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Episode 36 - Sleep With Me

posted May 15, 2018, 10:19 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

Sleep With Me (1994)
https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Sleep-with-Me/60033490 - Internet Movie Data Base
www.netflix.com/WatchNowMovie/Carrington/60021616/ - Netflix
https://amzn.to/2IlCRDk - Amazon

I don't think I've ever felt so misled by a movie summary before in my life. Netflix says

"A modern-day couple, Joseph and Sarah, discovers there's room for a third person in their marriage in this unusual romantic comedy. Joseph's best friend, Frank, is in love with Sarah, too, and no matter how much he tries, he can't get over her."
IMDB says
"Six different writers wrote a scene each of this romantic comedy featuring the marriage and turbulent relationship of Joseph and Sarah, with Joseph's best friend Frank trying hard to cope with letting the love of his life marry his best friend."

And Amazon says

"What happens when a man and his best friend both love his wife? Plenty of wildly funny, intense and shocking party conversation! Eric Stoltz, Craig Sheffer and Meg Tilly explore contemporary romance and relationships over six social events in 'the most original romantic comedy of the year. ... Sleep With Me is a raucously funny film! Joseph has finally professed his love for Sarah. Unfortunately, so has his best friend Frank! Bad timing, yes, but for whom? Frank's heartfelt admission bewitches Sarah, bothers Joseph and bewilders their friends who have no problem expressing their own often hilarious opinions of this bizarre love triangle."

I swear I didn't watch this movie. Maybe Eric Stolz, Meg Tilly, Craig Sheffer, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, and June Lockheart were all in another movie that happened to have the same name, and same character names, and similar plot, but was really the movie in the descriptions and I watched the other one. Even the cover art had nothing to do with the events in this film (it shows Meg Tilly in bed between Eric Stolz & Craig Sheffer - an enviable position, in my opinion).

SPOILERS:

This was not a romantic comedy. This was a fucking trainwreck of a relationship drama. There wasn't anything funny in this at all. Joseph is dating Sarah. Joseph is best friends with Frank. Frank is also best friends with Sarah. The three of them have known each other since college, when Frank was assigned as Joseph's roommate the year Joseph first started dating Sarah. Finally, after years of dating (and breaking up and getting back together), Joseph asks Sarah to marry him. Frank urges her to say yes, so she does.

The day before the wedding, Sarah confesses to Frank that she once considered pursuing him after the first time she and Joseph broke up back in college. He asks what would have happened, and Sarah says that she and Joseph would have gotten back together and she and Frank would have remained friends. Disbelieving her, Sarah kisses him to prove that they are still friends.

Some time later, at a party, Frank reveals that he is in love with Sarah and passionately kisses her in front of everyone. Joseph jumps up yelling "that's my WIFE!" and prys them apart. The party breaks up and Joseph and Sarah go home.

At the next party, Frank shows up at the invitation of their instigator friend (who is the host of the party), prompting Joseph to pick a fight with Frank that Sarah tries to break up. So Joseph turns on Sarah and they start screaming at each other in the kitchen. Joseph leaves with another girl at the party, so Sarah leaves with Frank. Joseph makes out with the other girl, but then leaves before sealing the deal. Meanwhile, Sarah has sex with Frank.

A week later, Frank crashes another party to find out why Sarah hasn't left Joseph yet and run away with him. Joseph discovers that Frank is there and picks another fight with him that results in the three of them shouting on the front lawn all the dirty details about Sarah and Frank having sex while Sarah is still married to Joseph. Sarah grabs the keys and leaves the two men standing on the sidewalk staring after her.

But Joseph turns away first so that only Frank notices that Sarah has stopped the car a block away. Frank doesn't go after her, though. He tells Joseph that she hasn't left. So Joseph, her husband, runs after her. Sarah opens the car door for him, he gets in, and they drive off.

That's it.

There's no poly in this at all, not even poly-ish. There's no comedy, no laughter, and certainly no group sex as the DVD cover and posters imply. There is only two people don't seem to like each other very much (why do movies always have romantic characters who don't like each other?), and a single man who is too shy to reveal his feelings for the woman he loves until she has thoroughly entangled her life with someone else. There is shouting, there is pain, there is heartache, there is confusion, there is cheating, there is lying, there is ownership and possession, there is backstabbing, and there certainly wasn't any "room for a third person in their marriage". I'm not even sure there was any room for the two who were in the marriage, let alone a third person.

The ending was so abrupt and so unresolved that I actually stared at the credits for a few heartbeats, expecting another scene. Apparently, it means that Sarah and Joseph are back in their not-so-happy twosome and have left Frank behind, alone again. I went back to the various webpages to get the URLs for this review, and I read and re-read the descriptions again. I checked the titles, I checked the URLs, I looked closely at the covers, to make sure I was at the right pages. I swear, this is not the same movie that they talk about.

I can't even tell if this was a "good" film or not because I'm so jarred by the misleading summaries and the unresolved ending. I wonder if this is why people have such fucked up views of relationships? Hollywood seems to think that relationships with people who don't like each other still have driving-off-into-the-sunset endings. So maybe people stay in relationships with each other because they think they're not supposed to like their partners very much, but if they stay there long enough, they'll get a fairy tale ending?

All I know is that everyone in that movie seemed to be miserable, including every single supporting character, and if that's what life and love are supposed to be like, I'll take my "unrealistic", "naive" poly family, thank you very much. Even though we also have conflict and occasionally some people in the network just don't get along in general, at least the romantic partners seem to like each other most of the time and just about everyone at least attempts to be polite to each other, and at the end of the day, no one stays out of obligation or fear of being alone. And goddamnit, no one starts a fucking shouting match at a party or thinks that public humiliation is an appropriate conflict resolution strategy.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 35 - Rita, Sue, & Bob Too

posted Apr 15, 2018, 4:16 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated May 15, 2018, 10:21 AM ]

DVD cover of the movie Rita, Sue, And Bob Too

 Rita, Sue, & Bob Too (1987)
www.imdb.com/title/tt0091859/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://amzn.to/2wd5YWi - Amazon

I just watched the creepiest fucking movie ever.

Rita and Sue are teenagers about to graduate high school. At least, I think. It's a film from the UK and I am one of those annoying US-centric Americans who has very little information about how the rest of the world does things, so I have absolutely no clue how the educational system works there, but it's weeks away from the end of their mandatory schooling and when they can move out of their parents' homes. 

 Rita and Sue are babysitters for Bob and Michelle. Again, I have no idea how that system works, but they are apparently both sitters. When I used to babysit, if the parents were going to be out particularly late, I was sometimes allowed to invite a female friend over to keep me company, but I was the only paid sitter. It was never explained how it works for Rita and Sue, I imagine because everyone in the UK already knows how it works. But they both sit together regularly.

So anyway, Rita and Sue babysit one night and Bob drives them home. Only he doesn't go home. He starts asking them creepy questions like if they're virgins and if they know how to put on a condom. The girls act insulted and antagonistic, but given how they behave throughout the rest of the movie, apparently antagonism is foreplay. So Bob takes them to some desolate cliff overlooking their town and fucks them both.

This is the third scene in the movie, and it only gets ickier from there.

SPOILERS:

There is absolutely no way to explain the poly part of this movie without giving away the ending. Sorry. At least you don't have to sit through 2 hours of it to finally get to the poly part.

Eventually we learn that his wife, Michelle, doesn't like sex and hasn't had sex with Bob in ages, but refuses to allow him sex elsewhere. We also learn that this isn't the first time Bob has cheated on her and Michelle knows about the first time - their last babysitter. They fight constantly over Michelle's lack of desire and Bob's infidelity and she continually accuses him of fucking the two teen girls, which he denies. Meanwhile, Bob makes regular trips to the high school where the girls ditch class to go fuck.

The sex scenes are uncomfortable and gross. Each girl waits her turn outside of the car, hurling insults and asking if he's almost done. The girls bicker and fight with each other and with everyone around them. They both come from the lower class neighborhood, with Sue's father being a fall-down-drunk and her mother complaining at her father while her father rages at Sue.

Eventually, the threesome are seen at a nightclub by Michelle's best friend, who promptly tells Michelle about it. Michelle then drags her friend over to Rita's house, drags Rita out by the sweater and over to Sue's house, where Bob shows up, and everyone stands on the front stoop shouting at each other - Michelle, Rita, Sue, Sue's mum and dad, and Bob.

Then, from out of nowhere, a gang of dirtbikers comes tearing down the street and onto the apartment building's lawn, circling the live re-enactment of Jerry Springer outside, and Rita jumps onto the back of one of the bikes and they all ride off together, leaving Sue screaming and on her own. Michelle speeds home, packs her kids and a few things, and destroys everything else, and leaves before Bob gets back.

The next day, Sue walks over to Rita's house, as she does every morning to walk to school together. Rita announces that she's dropping out of school two weeks before they graduate because Bob has asked her to move in with him (but not Sue), that Rita has been with Bob lots of times without Sue, that they didn't use condoms, and that Rita is now pregnant. Hurt and offended that she was not asked to move in and that Rita was with Bob without her, Sue storms off, only to run into Bob outside, who offers to continue boffing Sue on the side. Sue gets offended at the idea of screwing around with her best friend's man and storms off ... er ... continues storming off.

Sue starts dating some kid who we met earlier who made a bet with his buddy that he'd nail Sue before the buddy did. Again, Sue is antagonistic and insulting, but that doesn't put off our intrepid Aslam. After Aslam gets insulted by Sue's drunk father, they move in together with Aslam's sister, who keeps them in separate rooms.

Rita ends up having a miscarriage and Sue goes to see her at the hospital. Bob drives Sue home and Aslam goes into a jealous rage, accusing Sue of fucking Bob and threatening to wring her neck if she even so much as looks at another man again. Back at Rita and Bob's house, Bob calls out Sue's name during sex, which pisses off Rita, who promptly storms down to Sue's house to accuse her of sleeping with Bob.

So far, NONE of this is sounding very poly, but it's a lot dysfunctional.

Apparently, Rita runs into Aslam and tells him about the incident with Bob and her intentions for Sue ... at least I assume that's what happened, because we see the two of them stalking up to Aslam's house but Aslam makes Rita wait outside. Alsam goes into the house and starts screaming at Sue about being a slut and a whore and smacks her across the face. Sue has no idea what he's talking about, of course. Alsam lets Rita into the room to explain, but before she can say anything, Alsam attacks Sue and starts choking her. So Rita attacks Aslam, kicking him in the nuts and the two girls run away.

Back at Rita and Bob's house, Rita puts ice packs on Sue's neck and they appear to have made up, as Rita apologizes for accusing Sue, resulting in Aslam's attack. Aslam arrives. Now, Rita and Sue live in a poor neighborhood, but Bob's house is in an extremely nice neighborhood. And Aslam is Pakistani. So naturally a brown person walking through a white, upper class neighborhood is justifiable cause to call the cops - or so the nosy neighbor who is always watering his lawn thinks, because he does so immediately upon seeing Aslam, before he even reaches the house. 

 Aslam, Rita, and Sue carry on a shouted conversation through the various windows around the house as Aslam begs to be let in to talk to Sue and Sue refuses. Eventually he threatens to take some pills and kill himself if Sue won't take him back. She not only calls his bluff, but she hands him a glass of water through the pet door. Alsam fakes a suicide but just before Sue backs down, the cops show up and Aslam takes off running.

Now Bob comes home to find Sue and Rita sitting on the couch. Rita announces that Sue is moving in, that Rita and Sue will be sharing the master bedroom, and that Bob can sleep in the dog's bed from now on. The two girls leave the room. Bob wanders around the house aimlessly, probably wondering what the hell happened to his nice and tidy life, and eventually wanders upstairs ...

... where he finds Rita and Sue both in bed, topless, with a space between them, waiting for him. They say in unison "took you long enough!" and he leaps into the bed with them. The end.

So, there's nothing poly about this movie until *maybe* the final 3 seconds of the film. The first part isn't poly because it's a married man cheating on his wife with two fucking teenagers. The middle part isn't poly because he chooses only one of the teens and the other gets into an abusive relationship. But since it could be argued that the very very end of the movie involves three people in a live-in, consensual relationship, that makes this a poly movie.

But I disliked this movie more than I disliked Cafe au Lait. At least in Cafe au Lait, the three characters all live together for about half the film, even though they disliked each other. In this one, the three title characters don't dislike each other, exactly, but they don't seem to really like each other either. But, to be fair, they don't seem to like anybody, or anything. Everyone in the movie fights with everyone else. Apparently, that's just what life is like Yorkshire. The reviews keep calling it "realistic". That's a terrifying thought. The movie also got rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, and Sundance.

I can't understand why everyone loved this movie. Just showing people argue with each other and daring to set a film in a slum doesn't make for a "gritty film", in my opinion. So the girls are poor, and there's a lot of cussing and fucking. Big deal. The characters were unlikable and their motivations were random and unpredictable. But I guess if you live in an area where nobody likes anyone, you don't expect the characters to like each other. They just have to agree to stay together. Although I'm not sure why anyone *does* stay together if you don't like each other and there's no financial incentive. I guess it's just something you do.

I've already established that it's still a poly film if the movie ends with a breakup, as long as the *reason* is not that polyamory itself destroyed the relationship. If a movie shows functional polyamory that's destroyed by outside pressures, or even by personality conflicts but not because there are multiple people, then even if the relationship ends, it's a poly movie. So is it a poly film if the opposite happens? Does it count as poly if there is no poly in the movie anywhere but it has a "happy" poly ending? I guess so.

I'm grudgingly keeping this movie on the list because of the ending. But I hated it.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

To subscribe on iTunes or leave a review, visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/poly-ish-movie-reviews-by/id994404536?mt=2


I have since learned that this movie is based on a true story. Apparently this was first a play and the playwright really did have an affair with a married man with her best friend while they were teenagers. But it did not have a "happily ever after" ending and the author was very unhappy about that change in the screen adaptation. The playwright, Andrea Dunbar, really did live in Yorkshire in a poor neighborhood and apparently did have the kind of hard life that one expects from poverty, including dying very young - at age 29 of a brain hemorrhage in the same pub that we see the father of one of the girls stumble out of at the beginning of the film.

Dunbar wrote 3 plays before she died, all based on her life as a poor young woman in Britain. She was considered "ahead of her time" and "brilliant" and was one of the first to showcase what it was like to live in poverty in her modern age, including domestic violence, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, etc. I suppose in 1987, seeing this story on the big screen was considered revolutionary, and maybe I would have had a different view of the film had I seen it closer to when it came out. 

But the film was billed as a "comedy" and I didn't think it was funny in the slightest, and it was also billed as "gritty", which I think utterly fell flat since they were trying to make it "lighthearted" so it wasn't "gritty" to me either. Had there not been the cheesy "poly ever after" ending, and had they tried for more realism instead of "look, life here is hell, but we're having a good time anyway!" tone, I might have enjoyed the film more. Perhaps the play is more like that.

Episode 34 - Blow Dry

posted Mar 24, 2018, 9:13 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Apr 14, 2018, 12:57 PM ]

Blow Dry (2001)
www.imdb.com/title/tt0212380/ - Internet Movie Data Base
https://amzn.to/2I2eF8o - Amazon

I don't know where this movie came from.  Did you know that the Netflix DVD queue has a limit?   I forget what it is now, but I've maxed it out.   On more than one occasion.  It's around 500 DVDs.  Eventually, movies become unavailable on Netflix, and if it's in your queue when this happens, they get moved out of the queue and into another queue of movies "waiting" to be added back to Netflix, freeing up a slot on my regular queue for more movies.

Other movies have not yet been added to the Netflix library but they somehow use the User interest to help them get the rights?   I don't know if it actually does something to get the rights, or if it just tells them how to gauge what movies they should be fighting for, or what. I've been a Netflix member for so many years, and their system has changed so many times, that honestly I can't remember which of these movies used to be available and isn't now, and which never were but Netflix gave me the opportunity to express interest in.

A few months ago, I took a peek at my "waiting" queue and I was shocked at how long it had gotten.  With Netflix cycling out so many movies every month, I got concerned that some of these movies would never make it into the queue, or back into the queue.  So I went searching for a bunch of alternative sources.

Usually, when a movie has been in my queue long enough, I forget why I put it there.  It could be a potential poly movie, or it could be a skeptic movie, or it could be a Netflix recommendation based on something else I added, or it could be something that someone recommended for totally unrelated reasons.  But I can often guess why I put it on the queue based on what was added just before or just after it, since I'll often add similar movies in batches.   Without that associative reminder, though, I may have a movie here without really remembering why I have it.

All that to say that I had no fucking idea why I had this movie lying around, so tonight I watched it just so I could identify it and move it to an appropriate place (the trash bin, if I didn't like it, or my movie shelf, or one of my collections, for instance).

When it started up, I had even less fucking idea why I had this movie lying around.  I couldn't tell if this was satire or serious?  It reminds me of Cuban Fury, in that way.   Cuban Fury is supposed to be a satirical dance movie, but even though it's poking fun at dance movies, it turned out to be actually a good dance movie with some really amazing salsa dancing.  It's less satirical in that over-the-top Saturday Night Live kinda way, and more satirical in that "we know that we're making fun of a genre but we're going to do it utterly seriously", Shaun of the Dead sort of way.

Blow Dry struck me as the latter sort of movie.   It's about a national hair styling competition in Britain, staring ... aw, shit, who isn't it starring?  Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachel Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett, Bill Nighy, Warren Clarke, Rosemary Harris, Peter McDonald, and freaking Heidi Klum.  A tiny, pissant of a British town who doesn't give two shits about high fashion or hair wins the rights to host this national hair competition.  So all the pompous, Capital City-esque hair designers come to the sticks in their gold lame and glitter (much to the total apathy of the townsfolk) including the trite and overdone Villain - a hair dressing diva who is legitimately talented but not above resorting to dirty tricks to ensure that he wins the trophy.

The opening scenes were so ... Hairspray / A Dirty Shame / John Waters campy that I spent the first several minutes just boggling over why I thought this was important enough to acquire in the first place. But I liked Hairspray (the original), and I liked Cuban Fury, so I kept watching.

The basic plot is that Alan Rickman's character, Phil, used to be a star hairdresser with his wife, Shelley a decade ago, until Shelley ran away with their model, Sandra.   Now, Phil, a devastated and bitter man, cuts men's hair in his barber shop with his son in this town as far away from the glamorous hair lifestyle as possible.   Shelly runs her own salon with Sandra in the same town, and is estranged from their son, Brian, because of his dad's bitterness about being left by his wife on the eve of the big competition 10 years ago.

On the day that the mayor of the town makes the big announcement that they will be hosting that year's national hair dressing championships, Shelley gets the news from her doctor that her cancer is no longer in remission and they have exhausted all the options other than to make what time she has left comfortable.  Shelley gets some advice from an old woman whose hair she does regularly, to tie up her loose ends while she can, so that she's not like the old woman's husband who just dropped dead without even giving his wife a chance to say goodbye.

So Shelley, without telling anyone about her diagnosis, decides to try and get her family back together by entering the competition.  Unlike the SNL style of satire movies, there were no "and hijinks ensue" plot lines.   It was a very standard, seriously done plot (if a goofy premise) where the protagonists face a series of challenges that the villain tries to rig, ending with the two teams that we give a shit about entering the final challenge neck-and-neck, only the protagonists are missing / thwarted / led astray!  Who will win?  It could be anyone!   Or, y'know, the protagonists with a last-minute save, because that's how this plot line works.

So, why am I doing an episode on this movie?  There's nothing about this that says "poly" so far, and I made it to this final challenge still not knowing why I had the movie at all.  Until the "pep talk before the final challenge that puts the protagonist back in the game" scene.  Which means that I'm about to spoiler the end of this movie, but honestly, you already know how this movie turns out because of the genre it's in.

SPOILERS:

Shelley has been hiding her diagnosis from her partner, Sandra.   In the middle of one of the conflicts earlier in the film, Shelley reveals her diagnosis to her ex-husband and son.  When Brian, her son, asks why she just told them and not Sandra, Shelley says that she can tell them because they don't care about her (as evidenced by Phil's biting snark and Brian's moody recalcitrance), but Sandra cares so much that telling her would rip her heart out.

One night, while practicing for the next day's challenges, and being forcibly reminded yet again through Phil's bitter condescension of her worthlessness, Sandra walks in on Shelley throwing up and just *knows* that the cancer is back and that Shelley lied to her when she said her latest tests came back "all clear".  Sandra, the hair model for the competition, throws everyone out and quits the competition, going home to her mother at the edge of town.  With no model, with Phil refusing to join in the first place and only giving criticism, and with Brian's challenges already over, Shelley also throws in the towel.  She decides that this team is broken and gives up trying.

After an epiphany, Phil finally gets off his sore ass and decides to move past all the hurt he's been grudgingly clinging to all these years.  He finally understands that Shelley never wanted to win the competition, that she really just wanted to put her family back together, to heal the hurt she helped to cause all those years ago and to be a support network for herself and for each other in the coming difficulty.

Phil goes to speak to Sandra.  At this point, there's still nothing poly about it. He could very easily just be trying to bury the hatchet with his former model so that they're not constantly bickering and pulling at Shelley like a tug-of-war game.  But two things happen:  Earlier in the movie, Phil expresses hurt that Shelley left him for a woman, that he could have gotten over it if only it had been another bloke.   Shelley says, very pointedly, that there has *never* been another bloke for her, and there still isn't [long, pointed, significant look from Shelley, followed by confused and then dawning look from Phil].

Now, Phil has a talk with Sandra, his dearest love's lover.  He tries to talk her into coming back, for Shelley's sake. [inserted movie clip where Phil makes amends with Sandra]

There.   Right there.   "It's not me she needs, it's you."  "Maybe it's neither. It's us. ... Has to be worth a shot?"  Now, for most monogamous audiences, there's nothing inherently poly in this either.  Ex-spouses remain part of the family all the time, especially when there are children involved.  And admitting to an ex-spouse that he is the only person of his gender that one has ever loved also doesn't *necessarily* mean that that she still loves him *in the same way* as she did back then, or that there is an implied promise of a future together.  Especially, given her rather short expiration date.

But something that I've been arguing about for nearly 20 years now, since way before this whole Relationship Anarchy thing came up, is that who is having sex with whom is not the most important criteria for "family", and that it's "family" that really makes polyamory different from other forms of non-monogamy.  Polyamory has been used interchangeably with "intentional family" since the word was coined, what with the neo-pagan movement that coined it explicitly creating the culture around the idea of "intentional family".

So, we can argue all day about where the line is drawn - what makes it "polyamory" when you take the sex and romance out of the equation and just talk about "love" and "family" - but in the end, where that very specific line is drawn isn't really the point.  This podcast is even named "Poly-ISH Movie Reviews", and one lover being spurned for another, only to have both of them reach an understanding that their mutual love needs them both and that family is the important lesson here, is about as poly as it gets.

The poly content is ambiguous.   And I'd be willing to bet actual money that the writer, director, and all the actors did NOT interpret any of this as leading to a polyamorous family.  But all of my poly lessons came from my own Christian, hetero, monogamous family (which I write about in my blog, if you're interested on how *that* works out).  So, with the level of ambiguity, I'm going to deliberately interpret this as a poly-ish movie.

I choose to believe that the implications of Shelley's admission earlier about Phil being the one and only "bloke" for her, and his later suggestion to Sandra that they give "us" a try, *could lead* to a poly family.   With Shelley's illness, sex and romance are not going to be defining features of her future anyway.  What she will need is emotional support.   This is the "worse" part of "for better or for worse" and the literal "sickness" part of "in sickness and in health" and is the ultimate challenge of "until death do we part".

Sex and romance is great and all, but what good is "family" if not for the hard stuff?   Why bother calling our groups "family" or "tribe" or any of the other words we use if the only thing that makes them significant is the sex or the romance?  Polyamory certainly isn't the only relationship style that values "family", even extended or non-traditional ones like in this movie. Plenty of versions of monogamy do that too, even.

But it's a value that we claim is integral to our relationship style, a value that we use as a motivation for what we do.   So I'm letting the ambiguity in this film point me in the direction of a poly-ish future for these characters, short though it may be.  And, who knows?  Maybe Sandra and Phil will become family again on their own after Shelley is gone, not opposing forces tied together through a mutual pivot point and likely to drift apart on their own momentum without that pivot point holding them together.  They did, after all, have a close friendship through their model / hairdresser relationship before all the hurt.

If you don't think that the ambiguity is enough to justify calling it a "poly-ish movie", that's fine.  This is not one of those cases where I'm out to convince people to change their minds.  *I* felt it was poly-ish and I'm content with the nebulous, indeterminate quality of that conclusion.  I'll be including it on my list. If you like campy, if you like that satire-but-actually-kinda-serious style of "comedy", and if you like Alan Rickman, I recommend this movie.



You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to! 

Episode 33 - Sex Monster

posted Mar 3, 2018, 7:05 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Mar 3, 2018, 7:06 PM ]

Sex Monster (1999)
www.imdb.com/title/tt0159730/ - Internet Movie Data Base
https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/26595597 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2F9DemJ - Amazon

I just watched the most godawful movie ever.  Well, to be fair, this movie was not on a poly movie list, it was recommended to me by Netflix when I added a bunch of movies from some poly movie list.  And, historically, Netflix's suggestions based on poly movie additions are shit.  So I was expecting this to be bad.

This movie completely lived up to all my expectations.

"Building contractor Marty Barnes has always wondered what it would be like to share a bed with two women and, to his delight, he persuades his reluctant wife, Laura, to try it.  The experience fulfills Marty's wildest dream ... until Laura morphs into a walking sex machine who seduces every woman in sight -- including Marty's secretary."

So yeah, you all should be able to guess what happened.  And I'm pretty sure that whatever you're thinking right now is exactly what happened.   There were absolutely no surprises for me in this movie at all.  It went exactly where I thought it would go.

First, we have the asshole husband who begs and pleads and pushes his wife into "trying lesbianism" for his own benefit, using every bullshit excuse I've ever heard ... "it'd be good for you", "you have the home-court advantage, you'll like it because you're a woman so you already know what to do", "no, it's not for me, it's for us", "it'll bring us closer together", "I want you to feel free to express yourself", blah blah blah. Bullshit.

So, after pestering her forever, she finally starts thinking about it.   Laura comes up with the usual list of rules that movies written by men seem to think are important to women, including "not a stranger, but not any girl who I know whom you like".  Eventually they settle on Laura's part-time co-worker at the hair salon, Didi, who is an out lesbian and who very clearly has the hots for Laura.

They invite Didi over for dinner one night, and she puts the moves on Laura while Marty encourages them.  After a couple of freakouts and a ton of liquor, they end up in a threesome that involves Marty, panting and happy, dancing downstairs at the thought of just having had a threesome, while the two ladies continue to go at it upstairs, apparently oblivious to Marty's absence.

Now, we all know the fable of RBAMP (Relationship Broken Add More People) and the Ballad Of The Unicorn Hunters, so we know how Didi's part in this story plays out.

Naturally, Laura has the best sex of her life and starts seducing every woman she meets, including Marty's secretary, his business partner's wife, his sister, and the wife of an investor that he's desperately hoping to convince to invest in his construction project.  Because all a woman has to do is have sex with another woman to be turned into a sex-crazed, predatory maniac؟ It will automatically be the best sex ever and any woman within range will fall under the influence of lesbianism.؟   It's an STD, you know - the gayness is contagious, that's why the fundies are so afraid of it.؟

Here's what I hated about this movie:

  1. Marty pushed his wife into doing something she didn't want to do, for his own selfish gain;

  2. The entire fallout was blamed on Marty for having "broken the dam" and suggesting this in the first place;

  3. It's better to never experiment or explore, to lock up all your desires lest they carry you away like a runaway train into a dark tunnel filled with depravity and no self-control because once you start down that track, you won't be able to stop. First it's lesbianism, then it's kinky bondage, then it's practicing surgery without a license (yes, seriously, he said that);

  4. The assumption that lesbian sex is automatically better than hetero sex because of the "home-court advantage";

  5. The assumption that all it takes is good sex to turn someone into a complete nymphomaniac who can't control her own behaviour and has to have sex all the time with no discrimination;

  6. That this only happens to hot women;

  7. The blatant use and disposal of women for the married couple's personal pleasure;

  8. All women who are seduced by or interested in a hot wife will automatically be willing to have sex with the husband too;

  9. Marty immediately became suspicious of every woman in the world because he imagined Laura was going to seduce her;

  10. Marty was right and his paranoid accusations were justified;

  11. The implicit assumption that lesbian sex doesn't "count".
Yes, that was there too. [inserted movie clip where Marty calls his wife's potential interest in women a "new hobby that you like"]  It was there when Marty condemned his business partner for cheating on his wife with another woman, telling him that he's going to hell and that god was watching, but when he came home from work early to find his wife in bed with his secretary, Laura wasn't going to hell.  Laura talked openly about her experimentation with women and Marty found it annoying, but not because he felt he was being "cheated on", but because he started to feel inadequate.  The double standard that a man having an affair with another woman was evil but a woman having an affair with every goddamn woman in town was just a nuisance pissed me off.

As a side note, the cheating partner pissed me off too.  He justified his cheating on his wife being "fat".  We get to meet his wife.  She's a size 9.  Maybe.  I'm betting that she started eating because she realized she was stuck with an ignorant, shallow, callous, shitgibbon and pizza and brownies offered her more satisfaction and comfort than her asshole husband.  He then had the nerve to tell Marty later, when Laura seduced his "fat" wife, that Marty was no better than him because, although he was cheating on his wife, Marty was too, but at least the asshole friend had the good sense to not do it in front of his wife.  Grrr.  Anyway, back to the story.

To top it off, Laura even admitted later that she was just "experimenting" and that she really only wanted Marty.  As far as I can tell, this was the one good thing to come out of it - not because she went back to being monogamous, but because she finally started to tell Marty what she needed to feel good in bed.  Laura gave up women, but started instructing Marty on how to please her.  This, of course, made Marty feel even worse about himself.

Here's where it gets really bad, because all that other stuff wasn't bad enough؟

Marty is trying to entice Dave, a jerkoff from high school who is now a millionaire to invest in his construction project.  After Laura gives up women, Marty suggests that Laura "run her little rap" on Evie, Dave's wife, in order to get Evie to talk her husband into investing.  Marty stops shy of suggesting that Laura "pimp herself" out for the money, because by this point, he's begging Laura to stop fucking women.  But he does tell Laura to get friendly with her.

So Laura and Evie go out for lunch, where little miss Republican Trophy Wife comes on strong to Laura.   Laura freaks out and tries to avoid Evie, until Evie shows up at her house one day and instructs Laura to come upstairs and fuck her, and be quick about it since Evie has a cub scout meeting to attend.

Upstairs, Evie strips down to her teddy and garters and starts ordering Laura around.  She pulls out Marty's good ties and yells at Laura to shove Evie down on the bed hard, and then tie her up and gag her, which Laura reluctantly does.   Marty chooses that moment to walk in on them.

Leaving Evie tied and gagged, Laura runs after Marty so they can have a screaming match in the hallway where Marty accuses her of being a sex pervert and Laura yells back that it's all Marty's fault, that he "broke the dam" and that Marty is really the one who tied up Evie.  Laura never once says that it was Evie's idea that she get tied up, but that doesn't stop the narrow-minded Marty from being a prick who thinks all kinky sex is a mental disorder.

Then it gets even more irritating.   Dave, the rich husband, comes by the house looking for his wife.  Laura goes to the door to see who's there, then runs upstairs and whispers to Marty who it is.  In a panic, they decide to leave Evie tied up, pretend to act normal, and deny all knowledge of Evie's whereabouts.  Fucking hell, really

All they would have had to do is have Laura run back in the bedroom, tell Evie that her husband is there, untie her, let her get dressed, open the door, and explain to Dave that Laura and Evie, who are now friends, were just about to go shopping, and the whole thing would be over.  After all, Evie is just as invested in keeping this secret from Dave as the main fucked up couple is.

But no.

Marty opens the door, Dave asks where Evie is, and Marty says "how should I know where your wife is?"  Dave says "her car is in your driveway."  Marty has no answer for that and tries to distract him by getting him outside.   Suddenly, at that moment, Laura's first fling, Didi shows up.  Marty leaves Dave to Laura and tries to get rid of Didi.  So Dave asks Laura where Evie is, and Laura says she doesn't know, so Dave mentions that Evie's car is out front, and Laura's answer is "oh, well, I'm not a car person, so I don't know why it's here."

::headdesk::

Meanwhile, the only scene in the whole movie that I liked takes place outside.

Marty is trying to get rid of Didi, who seems hurt and confused as to why Laura is now avoiding her.  Marty decides to explain it in this way:

"Don't take this wrong, but Laura does not want to to be part of your little club. ... Yes, OK, she had a trial membership and we're not going to renew. It's not about you, no offense, but we're not going to renew the membership, OK?"
::facepalm::

Do you people not understand how cruel this is? Those particular unicorn-hunting married couples looking for the hot bi babe for their own enjoyment don't seem to understand that this is how that hot bi babe is being treated. No, I don't care that you craft your breakup speeches with more tact. She is being treated as the hired help, and when you're done with her services, or dissatisfied with her ability to properly spice up your marriage without actually affecting your lives outside the bedroom, you throw her away. Sorry, no offense, nothing personal.

It IS personal. She is a human being with feelings.

Anyway, the reason why I liked that scene is because of Didi's answer:

"You know something? All you guys, you think you know so much about lesbians, you think you're so into lesbians but you're not. You are into what you wish lesbians were, cock-hungry nymphos keeping themselves busy until the Real Man hits town, but that's not the reality. The reality, Marty, is that you pushed and you pushed and you pushed, and now your wife eats pussy better than you do.  Have a nice day"

So, now, because I know you're all DYING to know how the movie ends, the spoilers:

SPOILERS:

Dave isn't buying any of Laura's bullshit about not being a car person and drinking too much espresso, and suddenly Evie, still tied up and gagged upstairs, starts screaming and banging the bed against the wall to get someone's attention.  Dave runs upstairs, discovers his wife tied and gagged, and immediately attacks Marty while his wife crumples now that her hidden secret lesbian life has been discovered.

Laura finally breaks up the fight by knocking Dave upside the head with a giant book and explains that Marty isn't the one into kinky shit, that it was Laura who tied her up but it was Evie's idea.  So Dave naturally turns on Laura and calls her a wacked-out twat and leaves.  Meanwhile, Evie is STILL tied up upstairs.  Marty tells Laura to untie her, Laura refuses and tells Marty to do it, and they get into a shouting match in the front yard over whose job it is to untie the poor woman.

Marty loses, so he heads upstairs to untie her and takes the opportunity of having Evie's undivided attention to suggest that, since this encounter will probably result in divorce, that Evie should take half of Dave's money and invest in his construction project.

In the final scene, Marty comes to pick up Laura at work to take her to lunch, and we see that Laura has hired a replacement for Didi - a male hairdresser named Henry.  At lunch, Laura starts the exact same conversation with Marty that started this whole mess [inserted movie clip about Henry being bisexual and how experimenting might be good for Marty]  And that's where it ends.

I loved Didi's answer to the horrific but all too standard treatment of the hot bi babe, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the tables turned on the sexist, selfish asshole of a husband at the end, although it did reinforce the double standard of bisexual women vs. bisexual men.   But neither was worth watching the whole movie for.  Really, neither was worth reading this review for either, but at least you didn't have to waste 2 hours to hear the good parts from me.

So Sex Monster was not on a poly movie list, but it was recommended by Netflix as being "similar" to movies that are on a poly movie list.  And, since the time that I first wrote this review, I have seen someone suggest this in the poly forums as a poly movie to watch. Whether it's similar or not, this movie is not poly and it was not good.


You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to! 

Episode 32 - Lutine

posted Jan 15, 2018, 8:29 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Jan 16, 2018, 8:58 AM ]

Lutine (2018) 
www.LutineLeFilm.com

I was a little nervous about reviewing this film. This is an independent film from french director, whose name my American tongue is going to butcher so I'll let Cunning Minx, who speaks French, say it for me: Isabelle Broué, also known as Isa Lutine. This movie is pretty recent, having been released in 2016 having been completed in 2016 and due to premiere on French screens in April of 2018. I don't usually like what I call "artsy" films and I also am *quite* Ameri-centric so I have a really hard time getting into films made in other countries with other film conventions like differences in pacing and music cues and composition.

What made me nervous is that I contacted the director herself to ask permission to view and review this film. I've had other filmmakers reach out to me and ask me to review their films, and when I saw them, I thought they were terrible but I felt really bad about reviewing them knowing that they would hear first-hand my opinions of their film. These really old or really big films that I typically review are made by people who will never hear my opinion, so I feel a bit of freedom in being critical because I'm pretty confident that I'm not going to really affect the people involved. Now, as with my practice in affecting different tones depending on who I'm talking to, that doesn't mean that I *won't* be honest about a film just because the artists involved will hear it, it just means that I might be a little kinder in the delivery of my criticism.

So I watched Lutine with a little bit of trepidation, but I found myself surprised to feel really invested in the characters and the outcome of the film. The director, Isa, describes her movie as: [inserted audio of director description from Poly Weekly interview of a film that is a fictional documentary where the audience can't tell what part is fiction and what isn't]. For the full interview, which I recommend listening to, visit polyweekly.com/ and listen to episode 541 French Filmmaker Isa Lutine.

I think this may be one of those cultural differences. She considers her movie to be a comedy, I'm assuming, because of the absurdism of blurring the lines between fiction and documentary reality, but it's not what a typical American might think of when we think of the word "comedy", with our strong roots in slapstick and hilarity, as opposed to absurdism. I didn't feel the way I usually feel watching what I consider a "comedy"; when I watched this film, I felt more like when I watch a drama. However, that's not a criticism, I think that's more of an observance of cultural differences because I still really liked it.

When I was taking film in college, a couple of film buddies and I got together to form a production company, under which all our class projects were produced (and then later, we intended to actually go commercial with our company, but we ended up all going in different directions after school). The first big film we tried to make that wasn't a class project was a mockumentary. We wrote a script for a fake documentary a la Spinal Tap that followed a group of college students making their first film, and we played an exaggerated version of ourselves in the film. So it was a little bit like trying to look into one of those repeating mirrors, where we just kept going down like a fractal. Except the movie that our documentary-selves was making was not a documentary, but a romantic comedy.

But we had actors who were playing actors who were hired to perform in a romantic comedy - so, like Lisa was a friend that we got to play "Ariel" who was an actress who was hired to play "Linda", the romantic lead in our rom-com. "Ariel" was directed by a group of "film students", who we, my buddies and I, were playing, while we were actual film students. It was all very circular and hilarious as we played up various personality traits to absurdist levels, like the time we blew up a section of a suburb because our Technical Director thought our rom-com needed more explosions, and the argument that our rom-com characters get into that required a "plate-apult" - a catapult intended to launch a dinner plate at the male actor's head at a speed of 88 miles per hour.

So this sort of recursive, Inception-like story-telling holds a special place in my heart. But that also means that I might be especially critical of a film that doesn't do it well. This movie, I think, does this well. The blurring between fact and fiction makes this film feel almost Memento-like with an unreliable narrator but in this rabbit-hole sort of Inception way. Films with unreliable narrators can be difficult to follow, and that's the part that makes this film a "comedy", I think, as we, the audience, are never sure which part of this is fiction and which part of this is reality so the whole thing becomes completely absurd.

Now, onto the meat of the film. This was definitely a poly film, as the whole point was to be a documentary about polyamory. It's highly unlikely that any filmmaker would attempt a documentary OR a mockumentary about polyamory and not be at least sympathetic to polyamory. It's just not a big enough subject, in my opinion, to attract anyone's attention for making a documentary film that explicitly uses the words and the communities, unless that person has some kind of personal connection. So I was at least pretty confident that this was not going to be an outsider making fun of polyamory (insiders poking fun at ourselves is a totally different, and hilariously acceptable, situation), or someone who was openly antagonistic about the subject and wanting to use the film as a vehicle to moralize about polyamory.

But something that *could* have been problematic is in the viewpoints that were chosen to describe polyamory. In the US, there are a *ton* of polys who set themselves up as "leaders" but who do polyamory in one of the ways that I label as "wrong" - i.e. in ways that are harmful and/or ineffective at leading to successful, long-term, ethical, empowering relationships. In almost every interview and media event that I watch, I end up yelling at my screen that polyamory is not something that "couples" do, it's something that people do, that not all polys "open up" existing monogamous relationships and some of us started out as single people, and to the reporters to stop giving platforms to people who do couple-centric, hierarchical, rules-based descriptions of polyamory so that the newbies who are introduced to the concept from this medium won't start out at a deficit thinking that this is the way you get into it.

None of that happened here. Everyone that was interviewed gave very practical, sensible soundbites about polyamory. It starts right out with a poly meeting where the third speaker talks about how reassuring it is to not be the only person in his partner's life, as opposed to all the benefits we receive to having 500 people all dedicated to us, servicing our "needs", being the receptacles of our extreme libidos, stuff like that. When we meet our first poly "expert", she talks about each of them having their own lovers, not about "opening up" or "sharing" someone, and about the dangers of "passion" that I might refer to as NRE (New Relationship Excitement or New Relationship Energy).

Then we actually spend a long time setting up the premise of the film, which is watching spontaneous conversations, then watching Isa construct scenes based on those conversations, and then watching the re-film of those conversations into a better, more editable scene. Or, are they really spontaneous conversations? We don't know! That's the point. After seeing how everything is set up to be fiction, we even start to suspect the original scenes of being part of the fiction too.

Eventually we meet Meta, a polyamorist, who is asked about the feminist aspect of polyamory. She unambiguously declares "yes, it's totally feminist, because everyone has the same rights. No one takes any liberties that are denied to the other. For a man, being polyamorous means giving up male privilege." I think this negates the whole Unicorn Hunting thing by implicitly acknowledging that a woman has the same rights to choose her own partners of her own orientation preferences as the men do, whereas Unicorn Hunting tends to defend it's "fairness" by insisting both of the male/female partners "share" a woman. People equate "sameness" with "fairness", and those words are totally not interchangeable. Having things exactly the same is not necessarily "fair". If a woman is straight or bisexual, limiting her to only women partners (and the same partner as her male partner at that!) is not "fair" just because it's the "same" as her straight male partner's options.

It's also rare in that, a lot of times when people have labeled polyamory as "feminist", they tend to not get the definition right, instead describing more of a matriarchal culture that is basically patriarchy in reverse. When, of course, that's not what feminism means. Having a gendered term like "feminism" doesn't mean that it seeks to replace one gender's authority with another gender, it means to elevate an oppressed gender to an equal level so that there are no more oppressed genders, which is why it singles out a gender at all rather than just going by "equal-ism" or whatever. So I was thrilled to hear them not shy away from the term "feminist" and to define it as "equality", not "women get to be in charge".

Later, more words of wisdom from Meta. She says "polyamory is not about couples. It deconstructs the very notion." When asked if she is not a "couple" with her partner, she says "if a couple is two people, we're several couples," and she points out the connection between the non-sexual metamours as its own relationship as well. Later, we see a scripted conversation where Isa and her boyfriend are talking about him being interested in another woman, and Isa wants to meet her. The boyfriend asks if she wants to meet her or sleep with her, and then accuses her of wanting to sleep with the same person he's dating as a form of controlling everyone and everything in the relationship. I think this is a pointed but subtle jab at Unicorn Hunting again, even though I don't know if it was deliberate or not.

This film even discusses the whole poly vs. swinging debate with, what I feel, is just the right approach - that poly and swinging "are inherently different concepts but not mutually exclusive" and swinging being about recreational sex while polyamory is about autonomy in relationships, and how a person can be either or both, as well as the ever-salacious question about group sex - it's not fundamentally a part of polyamory, you can have it or not as you all choose. And, it touches on one of my own catch phrases (not that it got it from me, but it's something I say), how the real trick to polyamory is not in feeling love for multiple people, but in how you deal with your *partner* wanting others.

I found this film to be touching and ridiculous and poignant and refreshing and real in its fantasy world.

Because this is an independent film without a production studio behind it, accessing this film is a little different than most of the movies I review, but I do recommend doing what you can to watch this movie. You can't see it on Netflix or in major theaters. You can, however, contact the director at www.LutineLeFilm.com and ask permission to host a viewing party. The requirements are that your viewing party needs to be a public or semi-public screening with around 20 or more people and advertised on social media, to create online buzz for her film. It's entirely crowdfunded and advertised by word-of-mouth, so it really needs for lots of people to talk about it for a distributor to think it's worth investing in the film.

When you have interest in a screening or viewing party, contact Isa and let her know when and where it will be held. Film festivals charge an entrance fee to submit an entry, so one of the best ways we can support polyamory in the arts is to financially support polyamorous artists. If you can charge your audience $5 or so, for an audience of 20 or more people, that will help Isa submit this film into international film festivals, to bring the concept of polyamory to a broad, world-wide audience. And, considering, as I said earlier, that this movie doesn't idolize the couple "opening up", but instead highlights the concepts of feminism, autonomy, and freedom, I would very much like to see more films like this getting attention rather than our typical Unicorn Hunting films and TV shows that somehow manage to find cable sponsors and Hollywood producers.

After you contact her with the size, date, and location of your proposed viewing party, Isa will send you a link to a watermarked version of the film that you can download and then show in whatever medium you're using for your screening. This helps track down copyright violations - again with the whole supporting poly artists thing. The director will even join your screening remotely through Skype after the viewing to take questions, if you'd like. After seeing the movie, if you can actually write out a review on real dead-tree paper to include on her website (in your own language), that would also be welcome.

So, definitely poly, I found it engaging, and I recommend supporting poly in the arts and this poly art in particular by hosting screenings and talking about the film on social media.


You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 31 - Shortbus

posted Dec 16, 2017, 10:43 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

Shortbus (2006) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0367027/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Shortbus/70053448 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2wd1KOz - Amazon

I'm just going to come right out and say it ... I didn't like this movie. I know, it's all groundbreaking with its use of real, actual, penetrative sex among the actors and it's gritty look at alternative sexuality. But I didn't like it. I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the situations, I just didn't like it.

Shortbus is a movie that takes us on a series of vignettes of random people with no other connection to each other except the Shortbus - an alternative club that features a drag queen host and just about every sexual desire you can imagine. We have the sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, the gay couple who want to add a third to their family (well, one half of the couple wants to add a third), the creepy voyeur across the street from the gay couple, and the depressed dominatrix.

Yeah, it belongs on a poly-ish movie list because the movie embraces all forms of relationships and sexualities, including consensual non-monogamy. I just thought it was a crappy movie that tried too hard to be avant-garde. The moral of the story seemed to be "sex with strangers fixes everything", and that bores and irritates me.

But just about everyone I know loved that movie, so don't avoid seeing it just because of my review. We might have different tastes in films, and I seem to be an outlier on this one.


You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 30 - Kiss Me Again

posted Nov 15, 2017, 6:19 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

Kiss Me Again (2006) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0436460/  - Internet Movie Data Base
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Kiss_Me_Again/70056690/ - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2igH9mQ  - Amazon

Well that was a surprise.

I just watched Kiss Me Again. The Netflix summary says "Helmed by William Tyler Smith, this cautionary tale stars Jeremy London and Katheryn Winnick as liberal spouses trying to add zest to their sex life via a ménage à trois. When self-seeking college professor Julian persuades his wife, Chalice, to let lovely coed Elena share their bed, the physical coupling leads to emotional repercussions."

This sounds like I should hate it. It even says right in the summary "this cautionary tale". So I was expecting the usual "sexy hot bi babe turns out to be psycho and destroys their relationship", or even "frigid wife reluctantly agrees to threesome and leaves hubby for hot lesbo". Surprisingly, neither happened.

Julian and Chalice are a young, attractive, married couple with a wild bisexual roommate, Malika. We know she's wild because she's A) bisexual and B) has lots of tattoos. Malika has a long-time girlfriend, and one night she brings home a strange and creepy guy for a threesome with her and her girlfriend while the married couple sleep on the couch after an exciting night of pizza, wine, and rental classic movies. During the night, each half of the couple gets up and stumbles past Malika's room, where they glimpse the hot threesome and stay for a bit of a lookie-loo.

The next day, Malika teases Julian about watching them the night before, and lets it slip that Chalice watched too, and she watched for longer. So that plants the seed for Julian to begin thinking of hot bi babes and hot threesomes - hey, if Malika's relationship with her girlfriend can withstand casual sex and orgies, maybe there's something to it! So Julian gets up the nerve to propose a threesome to Chalice, using all the standard "it'll be good for us" tripe. Chalice immediately freaks out, offended, insulted, and condescending. But then she talks it over with Malika, who implies that Chalice is just a sheltered, naive, little girl, which pricks Chalice's pride. So she decides to have a threesome "for Julian", but really to prove to herself that she's not a sheltered, naive, little girl.

So they place a personals ad as a married couple looking for a hot bi FEMALE babe to experiment with.

Meanwhile, Julian is a young professor at a local university, where he is becoming known for stirring up trouble in his classes by *gasp* challenging his students to think. One of his students, a woman named Elena, has a crush on him. She invites him out for coffee, they flirt, and Julian discovers a growing interest in Elena. One day, they meet in the park, they kiss, and then Julian backs away saying that it isn't right, he can't do this, and that's where things end.

Until Chalice agrees to a threesome.

Julian approaches Elena and asks her to pose as someone responding to their ad, pretending to have never met Julian before. Julian rationalizes this by saying that if he wasn't married, he and Elena would probably be in a relationship right now anyway. Elena wants Julian bad enough that she agrees.

So, the threesome is set up under somewhat false pretenses, everyone meets, everyone likes everyone else, everyone fucks.

It actually goes very smoothly. Chalice wakes up in the morning without bad feelings, Julian is ecstatic, and Elena seems happy too. But then things go downhill, as you knew they had to.

Spoiler Alert!

Things go very smoothly. Too smoothly. It turns out that Chalice not only didn't have any bad feelings about the threesome, she had very good feelings about it. About Elena, specifically. Chalice seeks out Elena on her own and begins dating (and fucking) Elena behind Julian's back. Elena has started avoiding Julian and Chalice becomes distant with Julian. Julian's fantasy threesome seems to be taking both women away from him at a time when he needs them the most - he's having trouble with his unorthodox lessons at school and his career is in danger.

At first, I was irked with Julian for pulling the usual guy-routine and for starting this whole mess with a lie. I was ready to write off this whole movie as just another threesome-gone-wrong tale before it was even half over. But then things started to change. I became increasingly more sympathetic to Julian and increasingly more irritated at Chalice. This was less of a tale about threesomes-will-destroy-your-life and much more like the mess that the Unicorn Hunters often find themselves in because they're too busy thinking about themselves and not enough about the human element in the story.

One of the things the Unicorn Hunters do is think that they can pick some random hot chick, have sex with her for their own pleasure, and discard her without anyone getting hurt. They make rules saying "no falling in love" or "do everything together so we all move at the same pace". This never works in real life. When a triad happens to come out of a married couple finding a third, it worked by coincidence, not because rules like this actually work.

Julian and Chalice, like so many Unicorn Hunters, did not count on falling in love. And they did not count on falling in love at different rates. Chalice falls in love with Elena and poor Julian doesn't even know that they're together, let alone what their feelings are doing. Julian notices that both women are pulling away from him and he tries to get them to talk about it, but neither will. Eventually, Chalice's conscience kicks in and she tells Elena that they ought to "invite Julian back in", apparently without noticing the irony that it was Julian's idea in the first place and Julian and Chalice who invited Elena in. Elena agrees.

So they have another group date that results in a threesome, but Julian is primarily left out of the sex. He finds himself superfluous - the women are getting along just fine without his assistance and they don't even seem to notice that he's there. Things spiral out of control as Julian continues to push Chalice into talking about what's bothering her and she gets more and more snippy at him.

Enter Malika. About the time Chalice discovers that she's falling in love with Elena, Malika notices too. This is where we learn that Malika has a crush on Chalice. The movie was deliberately vague on whether or not Malika and Chalice actually had a relationship in the past, but Malika's jealousy prompts her to destroy Julian's and Chalice's marriage for daring to invite some stranger into their relationship instead of her. Remember that kiss in the park that Julian and Elena shared? Yeah, photographer Malika just happened to be in the park that day doing a shoot and just happened to take pictures of that kiss.

So Malika announces that she's moving out and leaves a stack of photos that she took of Julian and Chalice on the counter. Julian and Chalice come home at about the same time, both ready to apologize to each other and try to work things out, but they decide to look at the pictures first. Hidden in about the middle of the pile is the photo of Julian and Elena kissing.

Chalice completely loses her shit. She yells at Julian for fucking Elena behind her back (and no, she doesn't notice the hypocrisy here), calls him names, and storms out on him. Why the fuck do people get accused of doing things they didn't do and then they don't correct them? Julian does not tell Chalice that he never slept with Elena, he just keeps saying "it's not what it looks like, can we talk about this?" Dude, everyone knows "it's not what it looks like" is the code phrase for "it's exactly what it looks like but I'm stalling because I need to think up a good cover story".

So, at this point, I'm starting to revise my opinion again. I've gone from the first assumption that this movie is going to be a typical threesomes-are-doomed-to-fail movie, to "this is actually a bit polyish in that married poly newbies make these kinds of mistakes all the time and think they can prescript who will fall in love with who and at what pace", to now "oh great, lack of communication, hypocrisy, arrogance, this whole thing is going to shit".

At this point, I began to hate Chalice. While watching her stomp around, sneering at everyone and shouting insults, a repetitive litany ran through my head: "sanctimonious, pretentious, hypocritical, arrogant, self-serving, lying, double-standard, cheating asshole." I gotta hand it to the actor - she sure can sneer from atop her high horse very well.

So Julian's career is in danger, his wife is being a shit and has left him in a snit and managed to convince him that it's all his fault, and his girlfriend is pulling away from him too.

Julian has a meeting with the review board over a stunt he pulled in class that a particularly obnoxious little twit in his class reported him for (I was ready to smack the smug little bastard within the first 5 minutes of the movie), and Julian manages to escape with a verbal warning. So now that this particular weight is lifted, he looks like he's ready to tackle the next challenge.

Julian is in class, giving the day's lecture, and Elena has shown up, for once, when there's a knock at the classroom door. Julian opens it to find Chalice standing there, practically glowing with self-righteous anger. Here's the next bonehead move. Julian doesn't excuse himself from class and step outside, closing the door, guiding his pissed off wife away from his classroom. No, he stands there in the open doorway while she throws a fit.

And boy does she throw a fit. I was appalled. She barges into the classroom and starts shouting all the details of their current situation in the most graphic terms she can think of. She accuses Julian of fucking his student Elena in front of everyone (which he, again, doesn't deny, he just keeps asking if they can talk about it elsewhere), of Elena being the slut that Julian brings into their marriage so they can both fuck her, and of the two of them lying to her and doing this whole thing as a joke on her. Then she storms out, after having ruined, not just Julian's chance at tenure, but possibly his job at this institution, his entire career, and maybe even his freedom if the little shit who reported him for the last infraction tattles to the school newspaper again, this time about the Prof boffing the co-ed (keep in mind that they're all very close in age - this is university, not high school).

Julian and Chalice both wind up back at their apartment at the same time again, where Julian finally tells her that he never slept with Elena, that it was just one kiss, that he loves Chalice, that he's sorry, and nothing he can say makes Chalice feel better. She dismisses everything he says with more of her perfect pouty little sneers and storms out again.

Chalice goes to see Elena, but for some reason, this woman who she's only known for a few days (weeks?), who she has just accused of conspiring with her husband to have an affair behind her back and to rub it in her face by talking her into a threesome, Elena does not get the hellfire and damnation side of her anger. Chalice goes and calmly asks her to explain.

So Elena does, and Chalice believes her. Oh-their-fucking-god I wanted to wring Chalice's neck!

The next morning, Julian arrives at Elena's place looking like shit and asking if Chalice was there. Elena says yes and invites him in. He cries at Elena's kitchen table about how sorry he is for getting her involved in this mess and how it's all his fault. Elena does not admit to fucking Chalice behind his back. But Chalice comes in and sneers down at Julian in silence for a moment while Julian sits there looking like a puppy who has been whipped by his favorite master. Eventually Chalice suggests that all three of them go for a walk together and they'll talk it out when they get to the park. Her sneer slips and she looks patronizingly down at him as if deigning to forgive him for his transgressions, while hope floods his face.

Can you tell how much I dislike Chalice at this point?

The movie ends with the three of them walking in the park - Julian holding Chalice's hand, and Elena holding Chalice's other hand.

(End spoilers)

So, I think this deserves to be on a poly-ish movie list for a few reasons. One is that I see a lot of similarities between how these characters got into their mess and how a lot of couples flail around the poly community. Another is that the characters had an emotional connection to their hot bi babe. It may have started out as "just sex", but it became more about feelings and relationships - and Julian and Elena had their own emotional connection to each other before the threesome ever got proposed and Chalice and Elena develop their own emotional connection to each other. And another is that, although this was billed as "a cautionary tale", I believe that it was left open for interpretation, and my interpretation of the movie was that of a more honest and open future for our characters.

These movies are so difficult to explain why I think they're poly without giving away the ending. If you choose not to listen to the spoilers because you want to watch the movie and be surprised, know that I do have some movies on my poly-ish movie list that do not end happily-poly-ever-after, but they are on the list because they show polyamory of a sort in a positive, or at least honest, light. This was one of those movies that I flip-flopped on whether or not I thought it was poly. But after watching the whole thing, I do believe that there are definitely some poly elements in this film, and it might be cautionary in the sense that things can go horribly wrong, but I did not get the sense that this movie was yet another anti-poly-moralizing tale. You could argue that some of the things the characters did are classic examples of What Not To Do, but that the moral of the story did not appear to be "non-monogamy is doomed to fail no matter what and here, watch this train wreck to see why".

So, bottom line - I'm keeping this on the list of poly-ish movies and I enjoyed watching it. But be prepared to yell at the characters when they do things that we all know are foolish and hurtful.


You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 29 - Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

posted Oct 17, 2017, 2:44 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Oct 17, 2017, 2:48 PM ]

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (2017) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt6133130/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://professorm.movie/ - Official Website
www.fandango.com/professor-marston-and-the-wonder-women-202730/movie-times - Fandango Movie Tickets

This movie has so much to discuss! First, let's get the obvious out of the way - this is definitely a poly movie. The plot does not shy away from the idea that all 3 characters were intimately, romantically, and sexually involved with each other. I also thought it was a beautiful movie, both in production value and in poly values.

How historically accurate was it? Well, I am a movie reviewer, not a historian, and I don't read comic books myself, although I have since fallen in love with the comic-action movie genre and most of the people I care about are comic geeks. So I did not do a whole lot of research into the historicity of this story.

I have long heard, however, about Marston's poly-like arrangement with the two women who inspired his creation of Wonder Woman, his feminist, or should I say, misandrist, ideals, and his blatant interest in kink. So, at least that part wasn't a surprise to me, and was the reason why I was so interested in seeing this movie in time for this month's review so that my review could hopefully inspire theater attendance.

So, my knowledge of the historicity of this movie is superficial. I'm pretty sure, though, that the movie got the grand themes correct, but took some creative license with the details. For instance, in the movie, Marston pitches the Wonder Woman comic to publisher Max Gaines, who "discovered" Superman. We see them as strangers, meeting for the first time when Marston makes an appointment to pitch his idea, and Gaines being dubious at first, and then won over by Marston's impassioned plea. Marston makes this appointment after coming up with the idea of a feminist superhero that his partners, Elizabeth and Olive, both believe will fail. Neither have any faith in comics as an art form or culture-changing medium, and Marston had shown no interest in comics before this scene.

In reality, however, Marston did an interview with the magazine Family Circle in 1940 (conducted by his own partner, Olive) where he discussed what he saw as the unfulfilled potential of the comic book medium. Gaines saw this interview and hired Marston as a consultant for the two companies that Gaines owned, which would eventually merge into DC Comics. Sometime around this point, Marston had the idea to create a new superhero, but it was his wife, Elizabeth, who suggested making her a woman. He then pitched the story to Gaines, now his "employer", who gave him the green light to create the comic and it was first debuted in December of 1941.

What does seem to be true is Marston's feminist ideals and his deliberate use of the Wonder Woman comic as a vehicle to infuse those ideals into children to create a more feminist, more peaceful future for his society. He has been quoted in interviews and writings as believing that women are the more peaceful, loving gender, and that boys needed to learn how to "submit to a loving authority" and so hoped to teach them to desire this submission through the Wonder Woman comic, featuring a pacifist, strong superheroine. He also admitted to including kink and erotica in his work because he believed that the submission must come willingly, and that submission "cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element."

In other words, he believed strongly in consent and used erotic imagery to "train" young boys to want to give consent to submitting to women leaders. He actually called it "sex love training". Through his Wonder Woman comics, he aimed to condition readers to becoming more readily accepting of loving submission to loving authorities rather than being so assertive with their own destructive egos.

Given that this was the 1920s through the 1940s, I'm willing to overlook the misandrist gender binary essentialism of believing that men and women are essentially two opposing or complimentary monoliths and that women are the superior category because I *do* agree with his assessment that the ideals that women are trained to embody - compassion, empathy, cooperation, peace-loving, nurturing, etc. - are better for society and that those who do embody those ideals are the ones who would make better leaders, while the ideals of masculinity that men are programmed with - violence, anger, aggression, pride, competition, etc. - make for poor leadership qualities in a fair and democratic egalitarian society.

So, while I inwardly cringe just a little bit every time I hear him make a sweeping generalization about women being "better" than men, from my lofty vantage point of the year 2017, I do applaud his emphatic embrace of those characteristics that he identifies as "feminine" as the more noble characteristics for society's leaders.

Now, onto the cinematic elements of the film.

I thought it was beautifully shot. The movie was told slightly out of sequence, through flashbacks during an interrogation by a conservative social leader about the erotic and kinky elements of the comic. As Marston was forced to explain and defend himself, we are brought back in time to the creation and formation of his poly family.

The lighting and cinematography of the film was ... well, subtle isn't the word for it because it's fairly obvious but it wasn't jarring either. It felt ... smooth and seamless while noticeable. The interrogation is all shot in a very cold, monochrome color palette, while the flashback, loving triad scenes are in a very warm, almost nostalgic color palette. The happy scenes are warm and soft and mostly high key lighting, which is a bright, evenly lit lighting pattern found in sitcoms and romantic comedies and in older movies because early film material couldn't handle a lot of contrast.

The dramatic flashback scenes - both the conflicts or those simply serious in tone and the more instrumental, erotic turning point scenes - use low key lighting within that warm, vintage color palette, adding strong shadows to highlight certain parts of the scene and making liberal use of silhouette as a dramatic storytelling device.

What I especially liked about this was that the low-key lighting in both the warm color palette for the instrumental scenes and the cool color palette in the interrogation scenes, combined with a wonderful Art Deco sense of costuming and set design, made those scenes feel like live-action comic book art. They were contrasty and blocky, with soft, vague backgrounds and strong, hard lines in the foreground with our characters, just like the Golden Age of comics in which Wonder Woman was born. The more important it is for the scene to imply to the audience that it was influential on the future development of the comic book, the more comic booky the scene looked with shadows and silhouettes and blocky set elements.

But, what about the poly stuff? That's why y'all listen to this podcast in the first place, right? I mean, we can study cinematography in a number of different venues, but this podcast is all about polyamory in film. So, let's talk polyamory in this film.

The modern poly movement is largely considered to be a feminist movement. Most of its more vocal "leaders" are women and nonbinary people, with only a handful of cismale names attached to the shaping of our communities and our philosophies. One of our most common talking points is the response to the concern about "misogyny" and "patriarchy" so common in religious polygynous cults, which is that polyamory is what results when you give women the freedom to love who we will, without sexual shame or patriarchal power constricting our behaviour or our emotions. When women find a community that embraces our sexuality and our relationship freedom, we choose multiple partnerships of our own. Many of us came to polyamory by ourselves, as "single" women, not coerced into it by a male partner hoping to find a harem. In fact, when men *do* attempt to form harems through the poly community, they often find it backfiring on them, as the women discover themselves and their power through the love of other people and the supportive network that polyamory provides that other forms of non-monogamy do not embrace.

I felt this fact of the polyamory experience was paralleled in the movie itself. The movie title, even, only names the man and implies the women, but throughout the movie, it is the women who drive the relationship. I feel that this is the experience of many women in the poly community - overlooked and dismissed by society as being accessories to the men's fantasy but in reality being the driving force in their own relationships. Bill Marston, as the person with the most social power, gives the women the space to decide their fate, and make decisions they do.

First, it is Elizabeth who gives Bill the green light for an extramarital affair. Then it is Elizabeth who puts a stop to it, before it even begins. Then it is Olive who makes the first overtures, but she makes them to Elizabeth, denying Bill. Then Elizabeth puts the brakes on again. Later, after Bill guides Elizabeth to a better understanding of herself, it is Elizabeth who reaches out to mend fences with Olive. Then Olive again opens the door to a romantic relationship, again with Elizabeth. And it is *Elizabeth* who finally invites Bill in.

Each step in their relationship, from escalation to setback, is instigated by one of the women. Bill is there, holding space for them, making clear his own desires and intentions, but the women are driving the show. And it is the story between the women that creates all the conflict and resolution. The character of Bill embodies his ideal of "loving submission to a loving authority" - a choice of his own free will to submit himself to the lead of the women in his life. But he's not passive and he's not a doormat. He holds the women accountable when they fuck up. But he doesn't "rescue" them. He actually holds them accountable, making them acknowledge their part and be active participants in their own "rescue", or the resolution to the problem.

Elizabeth, I absolutely loved. I couldn't help whispering throughout the movie "she is SO BAD at this!" When my partner, Ben, asked me to elaborate - bad at what? Polyamory? - I said "no, at being human!" She was terrible at empathy and at communicating with any delicacy for other people's feelings. She was blunt and awkward and she had a tendency to hide from her feelings under this cold and logical, scientific facade. She cussed all the time and she resented men in general for holding her back from what she believed was her true potential. She was wicked smart and assertive and she knew herself, but she was also private and reserved and did not like other people butting into her business.

As you may have guessed, I identified very strongly with the character of Elizabeth.

Olive was sweet and genuine and caring. At first glance, this seemed to be a classic Unicorn Hunter setup, with the older, more established couple, the husband not really having much of a personality at all but still somehow being charismatic and charming while the wife was dominant and overbearing, courting a young, naive, star-struck girl who hoped to learn from them and who they hoped to mold in their image. But Olive has more of a sense of self than our typical Unicorn Hunters like to see in their fantasy prey. Olive is the one who pursued them, she wasn't hunted.

While she had less social power than they (and, really, don't get me started on the ethics of professors dating their students), she had what I like to describe as velvet-covered steel - a core strength inside of her, underneath the softness. She is what I would call an archetypal submissive - one who willingly submits to another because she has the will to do so; she knows what she wants, she takes an active role in crafting her relationships, she advocates for her own needs and doesn't let herself be taken advantage of, but she just happens to find happiness in domesticity and restraint and submission and in pleasing her lovers.

Here is where I have one quibble. It's really very minor in the scope of the entire movie, but it's something that I see repeatedly in the community and it's a sticking point for me. [inserted movie clip about two combining to make the perfect woman]

E. "What is it that attracts you to her?"
B. "She is beautiful, guilless kind, pure of heart. And you are brilliant, ferocious, hilarious, and a grade-A bitch. Together you are the perfect woman."

Again, this is nearly a century ago, but it still bothers me every time I hear it. While two people can have complimentary traits such as one being assertive and one being gentle and nurturing, they do not combine to make a single person. They are whole and complete people all by themselves. Elizabeth, with her fierce brilliance, is not half of a woman because she does not have Olive's beauty and kindness. She is a fully fledged human being. Her shortcomings may be complimented by Olive's strengths, and vice versa, but neither woman is a partial person.

I heard Bill's description of Elizabeth, and I actually formed tears because, when I heard it, I felt a longing to hear that same description applied to me. And I have. Of the people who have loved me who have really *seen* me, this is how I have been described and how I *want* to be described by them. This is how I see myself, and, like most of us, I desire to see myself reflected in the eyes of those who love me.

So I felt personally affected when I heard that description. To then immediately follow that up with "together you make the perfect woman", I felt like the wind had been let out of my sails. I felt desired and proud when I imagined a partner describing me as such, as though they really *got* me, much like Elizabeth's expression implied that she felt when Bill described her, so when Bill next implied that both women were necessary to make "the perfect woman", I felt ... punctured, discarded, as though all those qualities that I am so proud of are not "enough" to be accepted by someone I love.

And I know that a lot of people feel that way when described as "together, you make the perfect partner". I know that even more people feel that way when they are monogamous and they struggle to understand why their partner desires another. "Why aren't I enough?" That's a common, plaintive question among monogamous partners. Why am I not enough for you? When we view people as incomplete, as puzzle pieces that need the presence of others to make ourselves whole, lacking a certain quality or qualities can trigger exactly that insecurity because we are, indeed, seen as "not whole".

When monogamous people see themselves as half of a whole, to be completed by their monogamous partner, and their partner desires another, they can feel as though they aren't even "enough" to fill up their half. If, given the monogamous assumption of "completing" each other, their partner doesn't feel "complete" with just them, then they must not be "enough", because if they were "enough", then their partner would feel "complete".

If we want to help our more monogamously minded partners, and our monogamously minded society, better understand why we love multiple people, we need to reach a point of understanding that we *are* whole and complete people, that we are not combined with others to become "perfect", implying that we are imperfect on our own. Elizabeth is complete and wonderful in her ferocity, in her hilarity, in her bitchiness. Olive is complete and wonderful in her guilelessness, in her kindness. Together, they make up two wonderful, complete, and complimentary people in a family that balances each other out - each supporting and relieving the other in a cooperative, interdependent web of relationships. Together, they are both "enough" because it's not about being "enough". It's not about "completing" each other. It's about each of us bringing our own unique combination of selves to the table and adding richness and complexity to the tapestry of our relationships.

Another notable part of the film that I want to highlight is the issue of the closet. Given the era, the triad's choice to commit themselves to a lie to protect their children is absolutely understandable. I do not support the idea of the closet at all, but I am also in a privileged position to hold this opinion. I have the freedom to have made choices to remove the power of the closet from my life.

But I have also supported deception in other movies in the context of the era or culture that the characters live in. This, of course, reinforces couple privilege, which we see in this movie how it disempowers the one without the privilege. It's all well and good to say that nobody plans to *wield* one's privilege when things are going well. But having it means that we can fall back on it when things are not going well. The closet insures that we have this privilege at our disposal, for some future, indeterminate circumstance that we can't always anticipate when we say that we "won't ever use it".

Throughout the movie, Elizabeth repeatedly displays internalized shame over her unconventional relationship, for all that she champions women's rights and equality for all. Every relationship conflict the triad experiences stems from Elizabeth feeling some form of cognitive dissonance between her ideals and her societally programmed shame. She is not willing to face, head on, the social disapproval for her sexual freedom, in spite of all her talk of "I don't experience sexual jealousy" and other progressive ideas. She is deeply uncomfortable at her first exposure to kink, her feminist philosophy of women's empowerment seeming to conflict with women in a kinky submissive role. We continue to debate this very thing in feminist circles nearly a century later - how can we support women's choice when that woman chooses the status quo or a traditional role that the rest of us are trying to crawl out from under?

When things get difficult, Elizabeth retreats, back to where she feels safe. For all of Olive's gentleness and submissiveness, she is consistently the one to lead the others into more progressive, more challenging situations. Elizabeth is like many white feminist women - aggressive and assertive and confident in her position, but not "too much". When it becomes "too much" for her comfort, she stalls, and retreats into what privilege she does have. In some cases, this means she retreats into the closet, because as part of a socially recognized couple, that closet is one of her privileges.

It's easy to defend the closet as a protective cocoon. If it didn't have any protections at all, nobody would hide in it. But being in the closet has a cost as well. Depending on the individual circumstance, that cost may be more or less than the penalty. It may be worth the expense. But we do need to acknowledge that it *does* cost us.

[inserted movie clip about protecting children vs. passing on shame]

B. "And you will be left all alone with your bitterness and your rage and your knowledge that you loved her and she loved you and you threw it away for them."
E. "Our kids don't deserve to be attacked, to be ostracized."
B. "Our children are inheriting your shame. Is that how you want them to live? Is that the lesson that you want to teach them?"

This scene was so powerful for me. It went on from here, showing us the importance of vulnerability and humility in a relationship. This was a true shift in the balance of power. Always, Olive was loved and accepted, but she was still "the third", without legal protection and without social support. Always, there was a subtle, invisible, but existing Sword of Damocles over her head, where couple privilege could step in at any time. The triad was happy and functional, but here, in the very foundation, was an unequal distribution of power. Until this moment, when Elizabeth was forced to confront herself and her insecurities and how she used the closet to protect herself to the detriment of her "third". The only way to undo the damage to herself, her husband, her lover, and her children, was to let down her walls, stop using the closet as a weapon and a shield, and to be vulnerable to Olive, thereby shifting the power balance to a truly equal relationship where she could not hide behind couple privilege or use it as a weapon when she gets scared.

This is a very subtle underpinning of poly relationships. So subtle that most people, particularly those who are new to polyamory, can't see it. As I said, for the entire movie up to this point, Olive is a loved and accepted part of the family. It's really difficult to see that her position of "equal member" is an illusion because of that couple privilege, until she loses her position at the whim of the wife. There is never a point at which she can consider not bowing to the wife's position. There is never a suggestion that Elizabeth be the one to leave whenever there is a conflict.

And a lot of couples who open up their relationships will see this as right and just and fair and expected. And that's exactly the problem. This scene shows us why that's a problem. Their family, indeed each individual person, is diminished by being built on a foundation of couple privilege. Things don't work until they dismantle their positions of privilege, become vulnerable, and empower the disempowered. Only then is the family "complete". Only then is lasting happiness found. Only then does the relationship work. Even though it appeared to work for years before, that appearance was superficial, an illusion, wrested away at the first sign of real conflict. It took this power exchange to finally make the relationship between the three of them solid enough to last "all the days of their lives".

And I so wish more "couples" would learn that lesson before "opening up" and hurting their "thirds" simply because they can't see their privilege from the inside.

I loved this movie. I thought it felt real. I loved the focus on the women, in spite of the title.

These are the takeaways that I felt from the film: couple privilege is real; if you break your lover's heart by making them end a relationship that they desire you will do damage to your relationship with your lover; vulnerability is the path to intimacy and necessary for an equal distribution of power; and life rewards those who take the path of greater courage, where the rewards are a happy and healthy family and courage is being vulnerable and humble and honest.

And when we embark on a journey of truth and justice tempered with compassion, empathy, nurturing, and love, there is a little bit of Wonder Woman inside all of us.

[inserted unscripted conversation with Alan M and Nicole about seeing the movie in theaters on opening night]


Some references from the conversation:

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 28 - The Story of O

posted Sep 15, 2017, 2:12 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

The Story of O (1975) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0073115 - Internet Movie Data Base
https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/60020532 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2eZ4Dbw - Amazon

I think the big problem I have with stories like the Sleeping Beauty saga and Story of O is because they never establish the main character's personal interest in BDSM. In many of these stories, she's a timid, passive sort of girl, with an air of innocence that suggests that she knows nothing of sex or kink. This means that she can't have chosen it for herself. She goes along with the punishments because she is told to, by someone who has authority over her, or by someone she wishes to please, but not because she has fantasies of being spanked or some desire to give up control to someone else. Stories like these seem to imply that all you have to do is introduce a woman to the submissive role, and she will automatically find the pleasure in the pain, or that the desire to please is inherent and makes the pain pleasurable.

Sometimes there are side characters who knew what they were getting into and went joyfully, and sometimes you even find side characters who are submissive men or sadistic women. But the main character is just some girl who is told to submit, and she does so with no real motivation given other than she's "s'posed to". Maybe she internalized the "love, honor, and obey" bullshit, or maybe she's afraid or overwhelmed at the newness and strangeness of the situation, or maybe she doesn't know how to exert her own wishes, or maybe she doesn't even know her own wishes because she doesn't know herself at all. These stories lead me to believe that this was not her choice, but once there, she magically discovered a taste for submission and pain.

As someone who likes pain and resistance play naturally, I call bullshit. I'd love to see a story of a girl who is inexperienced, maybe she had Abstinence Only education and is completely unaware of any sexual behaviour other than missionary position for procreation, an inexperienced girl who meets a worldly and charismatic man who wins her trust and awakens in her a sexual desire. Gradually, he gets her to relax and experiment and, one day he convinces her to visit a BDSM club with him. Only, instead of walking in and her lover ordering her on her knees to service the other patrons, she gazes in wide-eyed wonder and longing at the tall, statuesque woman in head-to-foot leather, impatiently tapping a riding crop against her thigh while her male subbie grovels at her feet.  

When the lover introduces our protagonist to the local Florentine expert, she inquires not how the whips feel, but how he spins them. Instead of blushing prettily and baring her breasts to be bound, she surprises herself by suggesting, in a halting voice, that the rope master try a particular weaving pattern that she learned at summer camp when they made little plastic bracelets and keychains, on a rather fetching older lady who is bouncing eagerly, awaiting her turn at the hands of the rope master. And then the lover hands our budding young kinkster over to be trained, not as his slave, but as his master because it is HE who craves the whip and the rope and the desire to please.

I'd like to see* some girl be introduced to kink in a story and have her gravitate towards the top or Dominant positions, or even as a bottom but not a sub.  I'd like to see a girl in a submissive position in fiction negotiate her own boundaries with a top, to show that she wants the role she is about to be put in.  And I'd LOVE to see a fucking dom actually care about what the subbie wants, and to take the time to discuss and negotiate with them what the subbie wants and how to create the scene for the subbie's benefit. That'd be a nice change. And it might help those poor subbies who get into kink with no experience but a few books read, to understand that THEY are the ones in charge and THEY are the ones who set the rules. Being a sub does not mean being a doormat.

The Story Of O seems to be about as poly as The Ethical Slut. Which is to say, not at all. Both stories are only tangentially related to poly by way of having lots of sex partners. I do wish people would stop recommending both as poly.

Throughout this movie, the characters kept using the word "love". I do not think it means what they think it means. O is that innocent young girl who gets dropped off at a submissive training house by her boyfriend, Renee, with no explanation and no backstory and is immediately gang-raped. She spends her time there being whipped and raped and ogled and talked about as though she had no hearing and no feelings. After a while she falls in "love" with her master. With no conversation, mind you, nothing that tells each other anything about each other - she only knows how hard he whips and how hard he fucks.

Then her time is up and she goes back to her boyfriend, whom she "loves", and it is the love for him that prompts her to "love" every man she is given to. Eventually, we find out that Renee has a twisted, co-dependent relationship with his much older step-brother, Sir Steffan. They share "everything", she is told, which implies that she is now to be given to Steffan. She is to obey him exactly as she would obey Renee. Although, the only real difference between this order and every other time she was given to someone, is that Steffan is to become her regular master, not a one-time gift to someone Renee deems worthy of bestowing O's charms on.

Over time, O falls in love with Steffan and, I believe, is the only time she actually loves anyone, in a sense that at least resembles the way that I use the word "love". So, it would seem that her relationship with Renee and her growing love for Steffan make this a poly movie, right?

Well, except that her feelings for Renee dwindle at about the same rate that her feelings for Steffan grow. After a while, she stops thinking of herself as belonging to both Renee and Steffan and thinks of herself as belonging only to Steffan. She even tells him, at one point, that she never knew love before she met Steffan, which negates all that "love" she supposedly had for all the men she was given to, her training master, and even Renee.

Soon, O falls in lust with Jacqueline, a model that O photographs for magazines. Steffan lays out the plan for O to seduce Jacqueline & get her into their kinky underground subculture. Everything O does with Jacqueline is scripted by Steffan and done to make Steffan happy, even though it was O who first desired Jacqueline for herself. Finally, O delivers Jacqueline into the tender care of the same training house that she was brought to, and O spends the evening gloating with Steffan over the success of their plan and how much Steffan loves O more than any woman, more than he thought was even possible to love a woman, followed by O puffing up with power over having conquered the man who conquered her. To symbolize their mutual ownership of each other and no other, they bear brands of each other's initials.

Tell me, where is the poly in that? Well, now that I think about it, ownership, couple-privilege, a primary pair-bond, confusing sex for love, and using a hot bi babe for their own selfish desires without concern for the emotional torment she goes through DOES sound like the unicorn hunters that plague the poly community. So, I guess if I wanted to be snarky, I could call it a poly movie for that reason.

I wouldn't say this is a bad movie. To be honest, the fantasy submissive story that doesn't take into account things like periods and moods or how unhygienic it is for everyone to sit bare-assed on leather couches, and that doesn't give us a clear personal motivation of the submissive isn't my cuppa tea. So the movie could be a really good example of a fantasy submissive story and I wouldn't get it. So don't decide to see or not see this movie based on my own total lack of enjoyment of it. Just don't watch it as an example of polyamory. It's not. It's BDSM, it's erotica, it has plenty of female nudity, and it's non-monogamous. But it's not poly.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!


*Exit To Eden is an exception to this, although it's clearer in the book. The main characters *did* seek out the training houses on their own: the female character, after thorough training as a submissive, eventually became one of the most famous and cruel dominants, and the male character was forced to give up his ego and bravado to accept the submissive side of himself that he kept denying. Whatever else you say about Exit To Eden (and there is plenty negative to say about it, particularly the movie version), the story did not fall into the stereotypes of the girls-are-all-subbies-men-are-all-masters or the girls-just-need-to-be-exposed-to-pain-to-awaken-natural-desire-for-it tripe.

The best movie out there that shows a female submissive actively choosing her role is The Secretary, which has absolutely no polyamory whatsoever, so I won't be reviewing it. But the whole story is about the submissive finding herself and choosing her role, and it's a mainstream movie with big name actors, not a porn, so you should be able to find it readily.

As for books, my favorite books that include a young, innocent woman who does not yet know that she is submissive, and her worldly male lover who sees the submissive buried inside of her and who takes it upon himself to train her into what she truly wants to be but does not yet know, who values consent and who also *does* know her better than she knows herself, is the Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli, which you can find on Amazon. But, as they're books and not movies (and also not polyamorous), I won't be reviewing these either. I just wanted to let y'all know that I am aware of some exceptions to my complaint and to give y'all some titles if this is something you're interested in.

Episode 27 - Amelia

posted Aug 19, 2017, 4:27 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 6:26 PM ]

Amelia (2009) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt1129445/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Amelia/70108780?trkid=2361637 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2fVH3Ae - Amazon

First of all, I'm going to give spoilers. This movie is based on a real person and historically important events, so I don't feel any need to protect people from spoilers. If you are from the US and haven't heard what happens to Amelia Earhart by now, you're probably too young to be listening to this podcast or not aware of this podcast in the first place.  We don't watch biopics to be surprised by the ending, we watch them to find out how this particular storyteller tells the story.

I remember a few years ago when Amelia's letter to her husband about the nature of their marriage made the rounds in the poly community. I really resonated with it because it was not so much a statement of polyamory, but a statement of independence and female empowerment. This movie used several of her letters, this one included, as actual lines in the movie. So, without really doing any independent research into her life, this movie seemed to ring true - at least as true as any Hollywood film can be.

So anyway, I started out watching this movie knowing ahead of time that she had an open marriage and that she is on everyone's poly-celebrities list. And, of course, I am also aware of the only way this movie can end, what with her rather legendary demise and all. So I tried really hard not to get my hopes up out of fear that they would be dashed on the rocks, only to constantly remind myself not to be so cynical at every scene where there wasn't a happy poly family on screen.

It actually took a while to get into the poly stuff, but, conversely, because we had to cover so many years in a 2-hour film, I felt like her relationship with her husband was rushed. I didn't feel properly prepared for their first kiss - it seemed to come out of the blue to me. But when it came to part where he asked her to marry him, she wrote him her famous letter while he slept and then read it to him when he woke.

For those who have never read this letter, it goes like this:
www.lettersofnote.com/2010/04/you-must-know-again-my-reluctance-to.html

Dear GPP

There are some things which should be writ before we are married -- things we have talked over before -- most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feelings that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but to have no heart to look ahead.

On our life together, I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or increasing) in anyone else.

Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinement of even an attractive cage.

I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.

I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.

A.E.

So I can completely see why she has been embraced by the poly community. She isn't just practical about future attractions to other people, but she's also feminist and independent. She is concerned that her marriage will interfere with her career and she wants to keep her own place for when she needs time for herself. And I think the sentiments in this letter were well portrayed in the movie, not just because she said them as lines of dialog.

But then it took a while before anyone else came into the picture. So I started thinking that this wasn't so much a story about polyamory, but about Open Marriage in the original sense that the coiners of the phrase intended. Open Marriage, according to the book of the same name, was much less about extramarital affairs and much more about being authentic and honest within one's marriage - being open with each other to share their innermost thoughts and to be themselves without fear. They were very much for the concept of independence within a partnership, not losing one's identity to the couple. I'm not sure if that's where the term "interdependence" came from, but that's the general idea. So I thought to myself "well, OK, that's not exactly poly, but poly overlaps with Open Marriage, and many of those traits are integral to polyamory, so I guess this is poly-ish".

But then Amelia meets Gene. Gene was another flier who admired Amelia and ran in similar celebrity circles. In reality, the question of their relationship is controversial, but the movie takes a pretty clear stance that they became lovers while Amelia was married to George. So then I started to think, "OK, this is still an Open Marriage in the original sense, but now it just happens to include that single chapter on extramarital lovers." George notices immediately, in the movie, the attraction between Amelia and Gene, and he seems uncomfortable and resentful about it. But he gives her the freedom to pursue it. Rather reluctantly, it seems. But where things get complicated is that Gene and George have a very civil, friendly even, relationship with each other. Gene even stays at their house for a while, along with his child.

So then I started to think "oh, I guess this is poly - it appears to be a poly vee." But next we see an argument between Amelia and George when Amelia suggests, because of their respective touring schedules, that she remain at home, with Gene, while George go on his trip. [inserted movie clip of this disagreement]  So, that threw me back in the Open Marriage-but-not-poly camp, because, in my opinion, it's not poly if someone is being dragged into it, appearances to the contrary.

But really, George and Gene get along pretty well, and continue to get along for as long as the movie says that relationship lasts. There is no secret, everyone knows what's going on, even the kid. At one point, Gene's son asks Amelia to marry his dad. [inserted movie clip of the son asking Amelia to marry his dad] Amelia just smiles and closes the door. If that isn't poly, I don't know what is.

I think that George is put in a very difficult position. He lives at the turn of the last century when women were not equals and marriage had certain rules, and he has the blessing and the curse of being in love with a woman who thinks she's his equal. With a woman like Amelia, there is no compromise - you have a partnership with an equal or you have nothing. That's tough to handle in previous eras. So I think, given the time involved, this movie really did show a version of polyamory, even if some of the characters had a difficult time accepting it. After all, who among us has ever embraced all that goes along with polyamory without even the slightest bit of difficulty? Some maybe, but not many.

Later, we meet Amelia's navigator on her fateful final flight. They have a conversation where it appears as though he is mangling an attempt to hit on Amelia. The conversation goes something like this:

[inserted movie clip]

Fred: You and your old George, that's a touching love story.
Amelia: An honest one if I say so myself.
Fred: I wonder if it's honest enough for George.
Amelia: If you mean Gene, we're not together anymore, in that way, not for a long time. You don't think I love my husband?
Fred: Actually I do, in a certain way.
Amelia: But you disapprove of how I live.
Fred: Hell no, it's just like me. In fact it's like most guys I know.
Amelia: Meaning?
Fred: Guys love their wives, their girlfriends, doesn't mean they don't take advantage ... of an opportunity.
Amelia: If you have a point, make it.
Fred: I believe I have.
So this conversation clearly shows that, not only was her relationship with Gene common knowledge, but Amelia admits it without hesitation, and that the relationship was not a symptom of any problem with her marriage. Although Amelia was a very private person and tried to keep her personal life out of the limelight, she also appeared to believe strongly in honesty in her relationships, in the lack of possession between partners, and, in fact, in the partnership between partners, not ownership.

Whether Amelia herself really had a relationship with Gene or not, this movie portrayed a strong, independent woman who was a champion of equality and who loved her husband without possession and who expected the same in return. The relationships in the movie were not without their stresses, but they seemed to be open and honest and accepted by all involved. I don't recall any scenes in which Gene tried to "steal" her away from George, and George never once tried to change Amelia into a monogamous, traditional wife. He supported her in her career and in her freedom.

I'm sure the real Amelia was not the iconic vision of feminism that we see in the movie - at least, not all the time. I'm sure she had her issues, and I'm sure George wasn't always the unconditionally loving husband he is portrayed, and if Amelia really did have any lovers, I'm sure they also had their flaws. But for a movie, set in a time period when women just didn't do that, shown to a modern audience that continues to disapprove of non-traditional relationships, I'm actually a little surprised at how flatteringly they told this story. And don't forget, this is ultimately the story of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the almost-successful first flight of anyone around the globe. That they spent any time at all on the romance speaks volumes, let alone telling it sympathetically.

I'd call this a poly movie, even though the plot is not really focused on the relationships but the two male leads are fundamental supporters for her in her career. It's about daring adventurer and her passion for flight ... with a little love thrown in.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

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